A Wichita Falls man was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison on Monday for Tax Return Fraud.
Bobby Hicks Jr. was convicted of stealing the identities of three people. The 49-year-old used fake addresses, fake businesses and fake bank accounts in an attempt to steal $1.5 million.
"Mr. Hicks had a history from 2009 to 2011, manipulating people around him and then trying to further manipulate the I.R.S. system," Damon Rowe, the Special Agent in Charge for I.R.S. Criminal Investigation said.
"I think this sentencing was appropriate today," Rowe said, "It makes a big statement that we at I.R.S. won't tolerate this."
Rowe said this type of crime is a big problem and it's one of their top priorities.
Tax Return Identity Theft Fraud has been around since 2008 and with the internet, it's only getting more popular for con artists.
"It's quite easy," Gene Nadeau, the Manager of Liberty Tax said, "All you have to do is go online, I.R.S. website, and do it free online."
One of the reasons they go online is because they don't have to show any picture identification, like a driver's license.
"Most of the time they're not going to come to a professional," Nadeau said, "They're going to do it where they have less likelihood of being confronted."
You would think the I.R.S. would have found a way to stop it from happening, but unfortunately it hasn't.
"I.R.S. is, has no way of checking when it comes in electronically if it's really that correct," Nadeau said.
He said, a lot of times it will happen to people who haven't filed their tax return in years, since they aren't required to because of their income. However, once people do file, the agent tells them they have filed recently, even though they haven't.
If you do become a victim, be prepared to go through a lengthy process with the I.R.S.
Rowe said, "The investigators do a good job, a really good, thorough job in getting together and identifying and isolating who the perpetrator is and the extent of the problem."
However, the investigation could take around a year to resolve.
If you do become a victim, the I.R.S. will flag your profile to prevent the same thing from happening again.
With all of your personal information, not only could they steal your tax return money, they could also steal money right from your bank account. So, it's best not to wait until the last minute to file because con artists are banking on it.
The best piece of advice we've been told, is to check your bank statements often. The sooner you catch a fraudulent charge, the better.